If travel is all about the experience then let it start with where you spend the night and swap a bland hotel room or hostel dorm for a more unique bedroom.
1. Grounded in Stockholm
It might be hard to get a good night’s sleep squeezed into an economy seat on a long haul flight but it’s a different story for budget-minded guests on board the Jumbo Jet 747-212B parked permanently on the ground at Arlanda Airport, Stockholm. The Jumbo jet was built in 1976 and had travelled far in service to Singapore Airlines and Pan Am before it was repurposed as the Jumbo Stay hostel and repositioned at the entrance to the airport where it has a commanding view of the taxi-runway.
The interior of the aircraft has been completely remodelled to create 33 rooms, from four-share dorms to the double room and ensuite in the cockpit. Every nook and cranny has been utilised and there are beds in the (former) engine room, the wheelhouse (under the plane) and an observation deck on the wing that is a popular viewing platform in the summer and has been used for weddings.
Visitors, too, can ‘walk the wing’ in the summer and call in for refreshments at the café and bar inside the jet hostel, even if they are not staying there, while for paying guests it’s a just a short shuttle bus ride from the terminal.
2. Head for the heights
Sipping a cocktail while soaking up the view from a spa pool 50 metres above ground may sound like just another luxe experience except when it’s from the top of the Crane Hotel Faralda – a feat of engineering in its recreation as an exclusive three-suite ‘hotel’, built-in broadcast studio (at 15 metres up) and Panorama lounge.
What used to be simply Crane 13 for decades since the 1950s, and a workhorse in the shipyard of NDSM across the river from the centre of Amsterdam, is now a go-to hideout for DJs, musos and creative types on the edge of the transformed artsy quarter – Louis Vuitton, Samsung and the James Bond franchise have had launches there.
The makeover has been authentic and the crane’s arm still moves gently in the wind, offering up a slightly different view, depending on the weather. A lift whisks guests up to the double suites (situated from 35-50 metres up) and each one includes a freestanding bath with spectacular views from the window across the River IJ (pronounced ‘eye’), while a more thrilling way down is to do the bungee jump from the top.
Faralda can turn on the luxe experience for guests with limousine transfers from Schipol Airport, a bodyguard and hostess at your disposal (and at extra cost) if required. Champagne breakfasts and mini bar snacks are included but NDSM has been declared the third most trendy area in the world and guests are perfectly placed to explore the dining options on the doorstep, from smart French to funky beach club.
3. City oasis
James Fry has created a private oasis right in the heart of Melbourne’s laneway network… so private that there’s an unmarked entrance and only guests are given the directions and the code to access their accommodation. Notel is definitely not a hotel. Parked on the rooftop of a city car park are six fully renovated and restored 1970s Airstream trailers that Fry imported from the US at a mammoth cost of more than $90,000 each. Each was lifted onto the rooftop by a 50-tonne crane and has been refitted with five-star facilities including queen size bed (with comfy posture mattresses and super soft bamboo sheets) a compact ensuite and an outdoor deck. Complimentary WiFi, Netflix and mini bar (stocked with piccolos of French champagne and gourmet chocolates) are included.
There is no concierge but help is at hand 24/7 if necessary and there’s no restaurant or in-room dining – but the best of Melbourne is within walking distance and there’s good coffee just downstairs (hand-delivered to your ‘suite’ in the morning). Notel has become a popular venue for events – the whole rooftop can be booked out, accommodation included – and weekends are booked out months in advance.
4. Hanging in the forest
There’s no doubt that just getting to your room for the night in one of Canada’s Free Spirit Spheres is an awe-inspiring experience – each of the three pods is suspended amid soaring cedar, maple and fir groves in a forest on Vancouver Island and access is by raised walkways, spiral stairways and short suspension bridges – and yes, they do sway slightly in mid-air, but that just makes it even more appealing to lie-in in the morning.
Owner Tom Chudleigh set out to mimic nature when he created the spheres and, like nuts, they are light with a tough skin while suspension ropes that tether the pods to the trees function much like a spider web – strong, a little stretchy and resilient to hang securely. Chudleigh has also borrowed from sailboat construction and interior style with compact interiors fashioned mostly from wood, windows like port holes and space-saving features – for example, the largest pod features a Murphy-bed that pulls down from the wall.
The compact design also means that bathroom facilities are on the ground, a path best not attempted in the middle of the night. Naturally, there are some great adventures to be had nearby – sea kayaking, nature and cave tours and ziplining across canyons.
5. Fantasy retreat
You might well ask “Mira Mira on the wall which is the weirdest place to stay of all?” and Carl Ward’s fantasy retreat is bound to be near the top of the list. Mira Mira, less than two hours south east of Melbourne in rural Gippsland, began as a retirement project for Ward’s parents who wanted to fulfil their wildest imaginations when they set out to build accommodation on their 22-hectare retreat. But soon the fantasy creations were in demand by visitors who wanted to stay while they explored the surrounding country in the foothills of Mt Baw Baw.
Today the region is popular for its art and gourmet trails, fishing, bush walking and four-wheel drive tracks. Mira Mira is located in Crossover and guests may well wonder whether they have crossed into another dimension when entering through the mouth of Magog to the underground ‘Cave’, or the Gaudi-inspired ‘Tanglewood’ where there are no straight lines, or across the pond to the Japanese-style ‘Zen’ retreat.
Each is a self-contained two-bedroom ‘cottage’ set out of sight from each other, with kitchens and shower or bath facilities and heating for colder months (Mt Baw Baw is a ski area in winter).